The New York State Assembly has imposed a ban on new hydraulic fracturing operations in the state until mid-2011, pending an assessment of its impact on groundwater, air quality, environmental safety and public health.
The technique is generally credited for opening up the massive gas reserves in shale formations, such as the Marcellus Shale, which underlies New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, to development and production. This has led to a vast increase in natural gas reserves across the country, including an increase of more than 150% in the Marcellus Shale states alone.
The US Environmental Protection Agency is also undertaking a study of hydraulic fraccing, and is to release its findings in 2012.
Energy expects the European Commission to pay close attention to the New York decision and the US EPA study, given its potential impact on the quest for shale gas across Europe.
Meanwhile, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has significantly increased its estimate of technically-recoverable unproven shale gas resources in the US to 827trillion cu ft as of January 2009, some 474trillion cu ft more than was previously estimated.
In Annual Energy Outlook 2011, the EIA says that the increased shale gas estimate reflects additional information that has become available following more drilling activity in new and existing shale plays, and leads to nearly double the shale gas production and more than 20% higher total Lower 48 gas production in 2035.
US natural gas consumption is now expected to rise 16%, from 22.7trillion cu ft in 2009, to 26.5trillion cu ft in 2035.
The EIA forecasts that American industrial natural gas demand will grow sharply in the near term from 7.3trillion cu ft in 2009, to 9.4trillion cu ft in 2020, reversing the recent downward trend